Highway robbery and other tales from the road

Mainz in Germany is an attractive city. That’s where I spent the night on Sunday ahead of a full day on Monday with a client in Rüsselsheim.

I stayed at the Hyatt Regency. Right on the bank of the river Main. A very nice place, comfortable room (and bed), excellent breakfast menu, great service overall.

Except the internet connectivity.

Rooms are wired or wireless with broadband internet, as you expect from every major hotel these days. What I also expect – but constantly hope to be pleasantly surprised to the contrary – is to be ripped off with outrageous charges for internet usage.

I get that at the hotels I usually stay at when travelling – typically Marriotts, Hiltons and Holiday Inns – and now Hyatts.

Just take a look at this:


50 Eurocents per minute! That’s about 34 pence or 66 cents US. So 30 minutes online – all I needed to quickly check email and a do a couple of other things – would cost me €15 / £10 / $20.

Is that highway robbery or what?

The cost for 24 hours is €18. Maybe not unreasonable if you plan to be online for that time. But most times you’re not when travelling.

It’s a great revenue wheeze for hotels to offer you two price choices for internet access – 30 minutes or 24 hours. No matter that it’s an ISP offering the service and not the hotel itself. This is about perceptions – you’re in a hotel and you get the service at that hotel. Ergo, it’s the hotel you think of.

What I fail to understand is why hotels don’t bundle internet pricing into the room cost – and up the room rate by the appropriate amount – and then offer you net access for free.

I’d buy that different wheeze. This is to do with perceived value.

Which looks better? €150/night and you then have to pay a ridiculous cost for internet access such as the Hyatt example here? Or €170/night with unlimited free internet access?

I know which would appeal to me and, thus, influence my overall perception of that hotel.

Here’s another wheeze – cigarette pricing. I noticed that the price of a pack of Marlboro Lights in Germany is €4. That’s about the same as in The Netherlands. (Compare that to the UK – over £5 a pack or about €8.) I then looked closely at a pack. Instead of 20 cigarettes, it contained 17.

Ah, that’s how the government tax wizards are doing it – not increasing the tax revenue portion of the retail price but reducing the quantity you get for your money instead.

Aside: I never new that the origin of the Marlboro brand name is from the location of the original factory in Great Marlborough Street, London. I guess the brand name lost the last three letters of the street name as Americans wouldn’t be able to pronounce it correctly :) Or perhaps because the last three letters make the word ‘ugh’?

But enough of whingeing about hotel internet charges and other costs. Now, a whinge about airports.

Travelling out from Heathrow on Sunday afternoon and back here late Monday night re-confirms my view that Heathrow has to be one of the most stressful and unpleasant travel experiences of any airport, anywhere.

Dirty, noisy, half the world’s population crammed into every terminal building whatever time of day or night you arrive, eye-watering charges for car parking… I feel terribly nostalgic for Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. Now that’s an enjoyable place. Frankfurt airport’s terminal 2 as well – a pleasure to travel though there.

Finally, in my rush to get to the airport on Sunday in the torrential rainstorm we had here, I completely forgot a very important thing – FIR.

Well, not FIR itself. I’d recorded a contribution for Shel to include in yesterday’s edition. But I forgot to email it to him before I left. And I didn’t copy the recording onto my travelling laptop.


Mind you, with those outrageous Hyatt internet costs, I wouldn’t have been inclined to email it to Shel from there!

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Martyn Davies

    There certainly is some sharp practice in hotels for Internet access. One place I visited recently defined “a day” as ending always at 12 midday, so that I lost half the day I had paid for! In another hotel (which used a prepaid card system), the card minutes kept getting used until you closed a little orphan window that announced ‘connected’. I went to sleep one night, having started Juice to download podcasts, and in the morning, the card was expired even though it probably only got half an hour real usage.

  2. Armin

    That’s why I fly from Bristol instead of Heathrow when I can, much less stressful. Travel time is about the same from Swindon, not sure if/how that would work out for you.

  3. Rob Carlson

    I stayed at a Days Inn in Virginia two weeks ago with in-room wireless included in the cost of the stay. During the evening my wife and I uploaded 3 camera cards (380 MB) worth of vacation pictures to our server at home, updated our iTunes podcast lists, and caught up on our web surfing. It definitely figured into our decision to stay at that hotel, and certainly would encourage us to return next time. They’ve certainly got the right idea!

  4. neville

    A racket indeed, Dennis, I couldn’t agree more. And Martyn, I’ve experienced similar sharp practice before, too.

    Clearly the Days Inn, Virginia, is the place to be.

    Bristol isn’t really an option for me, Armin. Heathrow is only 20 miles from here.

    Dave, those FIR comments are a bit stale now. Fresh ones in tomorrow’s show!

    Must meet up next time, Sebastian.

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